Sandy's Garden: Why Might We Remember The Name Traugott Gerber?
On January 16, 1710, Traugott (faith-in-God) Gerber was baptised in the Lutheran church in Zodel, a small village right on the border between Poland and Germany in the Oberlausitz area of Lower Silesia.
The infant’s father had been the priest there, but had died scarce four months before his son’s birth.
We know nothing of Traugott’s upbringing.
At the age of 20, he registered to study medicine at the university of Leipzig, which suggests that he had been well-schooled and was able to afford to be a full-time student.
Traugott, who had gained an impressive amount of knowledge of botany as well as medicine, took up residence in Moscow, having been appointed director of the oldest botanical garden in that city, where he also lectured in medicine at the university. But Dr Gerber was not to enjoy a long life.
He died in Wyborg, north of St. Petersburg, on 8 February, 1743, while serving as a doctor with the Russian Army. He was only 33 – yet his name remains very well-known … you hadn’t guessed that, had you? … for, prior to his death, the Dutch botanist Frederic Gronovius had named a plant species from South Africa after him. That species is the Gerbera, one of the most important cut flowers in the world.
We have never grown gerberas in our garden before this year, having always regarded them as indoor plants in Scotland, since they grow best at around 75°F/24°C. Or at least, that was my belief: but having read that recently-introduced cultivars would thrive in less-warm conditions, we decided to give it a whirl.
Outdoor gerberas are happiest in full or partial sun and will thrive in the warmest spots in any garden …even in much warmer climes than ours … for they aren’t much bothered by the heat provided they are watered.
You want to make sure the soil stays evenly moist while they are in bloom so, in hot weather such as we have been enjoying, they will need to be watered every day … we invested in a timer-controlled sprayer to achieve this. Our gerberas are in large, troughs with drainage holes, but we needed a few days of trial-and-error to ascertain how much water the plants wanted while avoiding turning the soil to mud.
As you will expect, removing spent blooms with sharp secateurs encourages them to keep producing more flowers, an endeavour the gardener can further assist by feeding the plants every two weeks with all-purpose water-soluble fertiliser.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) offers this thumbnail description: ‘Cheerful, warm colours or cooler pastels and a long succession of blooms are among the reasons to grow this member of the daisy family, or Asteraceae.
Often sold as cut flowers or grown as houseplants and summer bedding, there are now hardy species available.’ Our ‘giant daisies’ are all in vibrant, bright, warm colours.
They’re gorgeous, much admired by visitors and very free-flowering. Will they survive the winter? Well, if not, we’ll surely plant more next year.